Escape From New York appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wasn’t an especially vibrant presentation, but it seemed to represent the source material well.
Much of the flick takes place at night, so expect a dark presentation. It entered daylight for its last half-hour or so, and those sequences definitely provided the most attractive images. While blacks appeared fairly dark and dense, shadow detail was a problem. The nighttime setting often came across as rather murky, and it wasn’t especially easy to make out the action. However, this appeared to be the way the movie was shot, so I found it hard to slam the transfer for that issue.
All the darkness affected definition as well. Sharpness was an issue, as quite a lot of the film – almost always during those nighttime shots – seemed just a tad on the soft side. When the movie boasted better lighting, clarity improved as well; the brighter shots demonstrated very nice delineation. However, the darkness that occurred during so much of the film left us with lackluster definition. Again, I didn’t want to come down too hard on the transfer, as it duplicated the film’s look.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Source flaws remained absent, and colors seemed fine. This wasn’t a movie with a big, broad palette; occasional instances of lively hues emerged, but it usually stayed with a dark tint. Within those parameters, the tones appeared good, and when they got a chance to shine, they were quite attractive. Objectively, the movie didn’t look great, but subjectively, I thought it deserved at least a “B”.
I don’t need to offer any qualified comments about the excellent DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. I thought the audio provided a surprisingly engaging and active environment that seemed much fresher than one would expect from a 29-year-old track. The forward spectrum displayed a lot of lively and discrete sound from all three speakers, and the audio usually blended together neatly. The directionality of the front channels was strong, and surround usage seemed engrossing as well.
The rears provided a positive ambient experience, and they really kicked in nicely during some of the louder sequences. Especially terrific were any scenes that involved helicopters. Those vehicles sounded bold and bright and swirled about effectively.
While the audio could be a bit dated, it still sounded good. Speech occasionally came across as a smidgen reedy, but the lines usually appeared pretty natural and distinctive. The film’s dated but workable synthesizer score presented nice dynamic range and often offered solid low end; bass always stayed tight and firm.
Effects betrayed the thinness typical of recordings from the early Eighties, but they still had decent heft at times. These elements were satisfying and clear much more often than not; for every slightly harsh bit, I heard many more that seemed surprisingly full. This soundtrack rarely betrayed its age, and I thought it deserved a solid “A-“.
How did the picture and audio of this Blu-ray compare to those of the 2003 Special Edition DVD? Both showed improvements. The audio was clearer and more immersive here, while visuals appeared tighter and better defined. Sure, I had problems with the latter, but it still looked noticeably clearer than its DVD predecessor.
Unfortunately, the Blu-ray totally omits all of the supplements from the 2003 SE. It includes only one extra: a bonus DVD. The package’s producers could’ve thrown in the first disc of the SE so at least we’d get its two audio commentaries.
Instead, the DVD offers a bare-bones affair that seems to replicate the original DVD from 2000. Like that one, this DVD provides both 2.35:1 and 1.33:1 transfers of the film, and it offers a trailer. I say that this disc “seems to replicate” the old one for this reason: its files were dated November 2003, the same timeframe as the SE. I expected them to show dates from 2000.
Still, I would be surprised to learn that anything differs when compared to the old 2000 release, and that limits the usefulness of the “bonus DVD”. What self-respecting Blu-ray buff wants a decade-old inferior DVD as an “extra”?
As it stands, Escape From New York largely fell in the “mediocre” category. The movie itself was a decent little action flick that consistently entertained me, though I didn’t think it provided any particularly special thrills. The Blu-ray offers appropriate picture and terrific audio but lacks any real supplements.
That latter fact makes the Blu-ray a disappointment. Unquestionably, fans who want the best visual and auditory rendition of Escape will pursue this Blu-ray, as it looked and sounded better than ever. However, it’s a shame that those same fans can’t retire their seven-year-old DVDs; the Blu-ray really should’ve included the SE’s supplements.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK